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Ex-USD Student Ups Ante, Sues San Diego Unified, Former Lawyers for Defamation

EducationEx-USD Student Ups Ante, Sues San Diego Unified, Former Lawyers for Defamation

Nick Ratekin, as seen virtually from home during a March 2022 hearing.Nick Ratekin, as seen virtually from home during a March 2022 hearing. Photo by Ken Stone

As promised, Trump supporter Nicholas “Nick” Ratekin this month filed for a change of venue in his breach-of-contract suit against the University of San Diego.

Nick Ratekin’s latest lawsuits. (PDF)

His reasons for wanting his November 2022 trial moved to another county include the fact that registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 274,205 in San Diego County, tilting the jury pool against him.

But Ratekin, a former USD graduate student living with his grandfather in Washington state, isn’t stopping there.

He says the San Diego Unified School District and his former attorneys are out to get him, too.

On May 31 and June 1, the 27-year-old former CIF champion water polo coach sued San Diego Unified and San Diego Employment Law Group for defamation. (The cases were assigned to Judges Katherine Bacal and John S. Meyer, respectively.)

Ratekin demands unspecified monetary damages from both groups — but specifies his ex-lawyers Dustin Pinder and Dennis Brady. He also wants jury trials.

Among other slights, he alleges that a year ago San Diego Unified staff and students began posting defamatory photos, videos and audio clips of him coaching the Scripps Ranch water polo teams and student teaching at Johnson Elementary, Baker Elementary, Wangenheim Middle School and Lincoln High School.

The posts, he says, were on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube and others “in order to defame Plaintiff Nicholas Christian Ratekin from employment in the education sector in the State of California.”

Ratekin eventually lost his student teaching jobs and was dropped from USD’s master’s of education program.

His original complaint said it was because his supervisors didn’t like his public backing — via bumper stickers and the like — of Donald Trump.

Representing himself, Ratekin faces stiffer pushback from USD attorneys, who want Judge Eddie Sturgeon to declare the subpoena-happy young man a “vexatious litigant.”

Recent motions filed by University of San Diego lawyers (PDF)Recent motions filed by University of San Diego lawyers (PDF)

That, and USD motions to dismiss the case and for so-called “terminating sanctions,” will be heard July 15 in downtown Superior Court

A June 9 brief signed by USD attorney Matthew Mushamel alleges that Ratekin’s “ongoing violations of Court orders, harassing practices and frivolous motions … continue unabated despite the Court’s intervention.”

USD also seeks sanctions, he says, “because Plaintiff continues filing frivolous motions, sending countless emails to third parties … in turn costing USD thousands of dollars in fees for having to continually oppose such unfounded acts.”

Mushamel says Ratekin’s assurances that he hasn’t issued subpoenas without first asking the judge “are at best meaningless and at worst deceptive.”

But Ron Ratekin, his grandfather in Brush Prairie, Washington, wrote the court June 14: “I want to emphatically restate that I have been in full compliance with the Court’s Order and none of the items in question were issued by Plaintiff Nicholas Christian Ratekin.”

Mushamel says Nick Ratekin served at least 37 subpoenas on third parties without the court’s approval.

Later still, he wrote, Ratekin “fired off over 70 emails in the relentless harassment of numerous community members, all under the pretext of discovery. Most recently, he served a subpoena on the Office of Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, without Court approval.”

Further: Since an April 21 hearing, Ratekin “has issued additional subpoenas, sent emails pursuing prior subpoenas and faxed hundreds of pages to third parties completely unsolicited.”

The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction received over 250 emails, USD says, “creating a costly undue burden to that public entity.”

National University and USA Water Polo have made similar complaints, said the USD lawyer.

On Monday, Ratekin declined to address certain questions from Times of San Diego.

“At this point in time,” he said via email, “I cannot provide a comment.”

In his effort to have Ratekin shut down via the “vexatious litigant” tag, Mushamel noted that Ratekin filed 10 small claims court cases between 2020 and 2021, “which he lost.”

“He has had other restraining order requests brought against him, at least some of which were temporarily granted (but not permanently granted),” Mushamel said.

Noting the lawsuits against San Diego Unified and Ratekin’s prior counsel, Mushamel added: “This pattern suggests that even after [the USD] lawsuit is dismissed, Plaintiff has no intention of abandoning his full-time job of continuing to overwhelm the Court and community members with his harassing tactics and abuse of the judicial system.”

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